Ideas Boards and Children's Voice
This case study was written by Mary Bainbridge, a former principal teacher at St. Mary’s Primary School in Edinburgh. In it, Mary shares her ideas for how to make sure that every child has an opportunity to express their ideas in school and have them taken seriously.
How do we hear everyone’s voice?
We all know how important and necessary it is to have the children’s voice at the centre of everything we do at school, but many of us also know how hard it is to ensure that every child’s voice is heard. So what can we do?
I’ve often heard children say:
- It’s always the same people who get chosen as pupil reps
- I’m too shy to share my ideas
- Nothing ever changes anyway
There are many reasons why some children never feel they have a real opportunity to share their ideas or see suggestions put into practice, but one of the most common barriers seems to be ‘time’. It takes time to consult with the whole class, it take time to ensure the Pupil Council reps or the ECO group reps etc. are prepared for their meetings, it takes time before the next meeting is arranged, it takes time for the selecting of action points and then it takes time to find the appropriate way to implement any of these, or to go to an appropriate adult to ask for support.
When this is the case, it is very frustrating for everyone who wants to work hard for change and use all the wonderful ideas and listen to the challenges that children are having at school.
So how can we make the participation and process as accessible and manageable as possible?
One approach is to introduce an ‘Ideas Board’ in every classroom – this can be a poster or pinboard – whichever works best for each class.
This board must be very easy for everyone to access and reach – maybe on the classroom door or on a wall nearby. The children can design and decorate it and choose how they aWhat action needs to be taken to make the change?
- Who needs to be involved?
- Is this something the class can take on ourselves? Eg litter picking the playground/music playing at lunchtime/more opportunities for group work in class.
- Is this something that should go to our pupil group reps for them to discuss at their next group meeting? Eg a walking bus/fairtrade tuckshop/paper waste in school.
- Is this something that needs to be taken straight to management (that morning!) for consideration? Eg changing dinner hall rotas for fairness, new playground equipment, soft starts.
Once an idea has been discussed and you’ve agreed how you’re going to action it you can then transfer the idea to another board so that people can see what is happening and who is responsible for taking it forward.
Closing the feedback loop
Finally, a third board is required to record the outcomes and impact of what happened with the idea. This is a really important part of the process and one that is often overlooked. Children need to see how their ideas were taken up and what happened as a result, otherwise how will they know that they’ve been listened to and taken seriously?
The third board could either be in the classroom or the school could decide to have a larger ‘Pupil Voice and Change’ board in a central location to record the ideas and briefly identify the action/change. It is really important for all the children to see the progress of their ideas and the impact of their voice making a difference.
At the start of the circle time each week an update should be given on what has happened with previous ideas and what will happen next.
The important thing to remember is that this does not need to be complicated. The post-it note can just move around the boards and hopefully end up on the ‘Pupil Voice and Change’ board.
This way the children can clearly see the journey of their wonderful ideas into action and that their voice is being heard!